By the time you read this, if you ever read this, these words will be lost in translation. I will just be a mom talking about nothing while you're trying to shovel food in your face and hide in your room. I get that. I've been there.
My hope is that even if you don't hear me now, you will already know how I feel about everything from condoms to college. Your dad and I are pretty open about that stuff. Sorry we're not sorry.
Just in case you missed it, here are 10 nuggets of advice I've learned over the years. I almost wrote NO MOTORCYCLES for numbers one through 10, but then I realized that's less advice and more a demand because over my dead body.
1. Don't peak in high school.
I don't want to be one of those annoying adults who say "high school doesn't matter" because a) that means nothing to someone who is in high school and b) it does matter. High school definitely has its place in the life cycle. Embrace it! It's where you learn basic life skills like don't talk behind your friend's back and never buy egg salad from a cafeteria. It's where you learn you might be good at something someday. Pay attention.
What's more accurate is to say don't worry about being popular in high school. Being popular in high school does nothing more than give you a false sense of self in the real world where people don't care if you are wearing designer sneakers. As you grow older, you'll notice the people who are still talking about high school are almost always unhappy. Enjoy it while you're there, then move on.
2. Be nice to humans.
Don't be the guy making jokes about the nerd in the locker room. Don't be the nerd making fun of the jock in science class. Be the kid who is nice to everyone. The kid everyone picks first for a group project because you're the one who will make it fun.
I promise you will never, ever go wrong being nice to people. I know it's not always easy. Sometimes being kind is uncomfortable. Sometimes it means helping the underdog or being the underdog. Hold your head high, be brave, fake confidence if you have to. Out of all the things you can do in life, being kind will always carry you the farthest. (Be nice to animals too.)
3. Go to college.
Go to college. Go to college even though it's expensive and you'll be paying it off in 100 dollar increments until you're 52. Go to college even if you're in love with your high school sweetheart or think you'll be homesick or don't know what you want to do with your life. Go to college and sign up for everything and don't look back. There will never be another time in your life when it will be so easy to make friends, travel the world, learn things, and be praised by wiser people. Welcome it with open arms. Make mistakes, make friends, make the most of it. Don't get pregnant.
4. Protect your body.
There's a lot of stuff I'm supposed to tell you about guarding your heart and protecting your sexual innocence until you're married/dead. But as much as I want you to be a 30-year-old virgin, I know that's probably not going to happen. I'll do what I can to convince you that sexy time comes with emotional baggage, but what I'm talking about here is actually protecting your physical body.
Do not get pregnant. Do not get someone else pregnant. Always, always, always use protection. STDs are no joke. Protect yourself. You are in charge of your body. You are the gatekeeper, the sultan, the ruler of all the land! Sex should always be your choice -- and don't ever forget that you can't force it on someone else, either.
Don't have sex in high school.
5. Let yourself be broken.
There will come a time in your wild and precious life when something really shitty happens. Sorry I said "shitty," but that's all there is to say in such grave circumstances. Maybe someone broke your heart. Maybe you were pursuing a passion and now you can't. Maybe you were betrayed and now your spirit is very broken.
Take a deep breath and let yourself feel all the feelings. Brokenness is next to godliness, and by that I mean -- being broken always leads to growth. I know it's annoying.
The good news is that even though the pain is real and terrible and feels like it will probably kill you, it will get better. I promise. Breathe, feel, ask for help, tackle it day by day.
6. Spend a year being disappointing.
It's OK to take a year off. A year to go broke backpacking the Appalachian Trail or trying to develop an app or waiting tables in a windy city. A year to do nothing but mope and write dark poems. A year to be an utter disappointment to yourself by just living without doing much of anything.
I know it might seem like all your peers have it together and are writing grants in graduate school, but they're just as lost. Struggle is normal, struggle is important, struggle is good. Give yourself some grace. Wander. Fail. Start over. It's OK.
7. Apply yourself.
While it's OK to take time off to "find yourself in Europe" (try not to smoke all the weed), remember that being a vagabond for too long usually ends in living with your parents and working for the guy who used to peel out of the parking lot in high school. Yes it's important to wander, but it's also important to work. It's OK if you don't know what your "passions" are. It's OK if you don't want to be a doctor or lawyer or actor or teacher. It's OK if you work hard at something, quit, and then work hard at something else. It's all part of the process.
Just remember that good things come from trying, failing, and getting back on that proverbial, irritating horse.
8. Don't get married young.
Don't get married before, in lieu of, during, or right after college. If you've decided to wait to have sex until you're married, that's amazing. But do not get married just to have sex. You will be very disappointed. Don't rush into something you have the rest of your life to do. Don't miss out on the best parts of college or your 20s just so you can make blueberry pancakes with your valentine every morning. There's plenty of time for that. I promise. Studies and personal experience have proven that a person grows and changes the most from 18 to 24 years old. The person you want to marry at 18 years old may look very different than the person you would marry at 25.
I know you're young and in love. Isn't that the best? I wouldn't trade those memories for a million doughnuts. Embrace it, but wait to get married.
9. Take the high road.
If your boss is an asshat, take the high road and work harder. If your boyfriend's mom is annoying and petty, take the high road and smile bigger. If your best friend tells everyone you had diarrhea on the bus, take the high road and resist putting laxatives in her lunch. Taking the high road is really just code for taking the hard road, but believe me -- what goes around comes around. Karma is real. You don't need to have a hand in it. The bravest, happiest, smartest people I know are the ones taking that high, hard road. I believe in you.
10. Follow your dreams.
Follow your dreams may sound cliche and trite, but you won't believe how many people are pressured into lives they don't actually want to lead. So I'm just going to give it to you straight: Is it your dream to be a gay dancer? Be a gay dancer. Do you want to be a high school math teacher and do magic tricks on the side? Knock yourself out. Do you want to pursue acting or quilting or synchronized swimming? High fives all around.
I wish I could say that dreams don't take work, but the truth is they are often a labor of love. Sometimes you don't get paid for following your dreams for decades. That's OK. Follow them anyway. Follow them on weekends and weeknights and in those slivers of times it might be easier to play video games (don't play video games).
No matter what, we've got your back.
This piece originally appeared on Kate Baer's blog.